Red Room – Movie Review

Grab some popcorn and a drink on your way into South Africa’s first thriller film because you’re bound to be entertained throughout.

Red Room stars the very talented Khanyi Mbau and follows the story of a new mother who, due to a series of unfortunate events, ends up in the middle of a sex trafficking plot. This thriller stays one step ahead of its audience throughout and it extends its shelf-life by being one of those movies that are completely different when watched the second time around. Its elements of mystery are balanced out with some comedic moments and dramatic turns.

We had no idea what to expect going into this movie as the trailer is about as mysterious as the storyline itself. However, not knowing what to expect is exactly the way movies should be experienced, as it elevates the possibilities for surprises and memorable moments. This movie does that very successfully.

Although sex trafficking occurs in the film, the heaviness of the topic is not explored. We’re showed a few girls in captivity but the attention is not placed on them. The focus of the movie is on the main characters and their experiences and agendas. Khanyi Mbau touches on this in our red carpet interview with her, explaining that storytelling should be allowed to be fun, without always being too serious and educational. Which is what we experienced with this film. Not edutainment, but pure entertainment. Its plot twists and turns challenge the audience to be open-minded and the beautiful cinematography expands the sense of possibilities within the story, making it feel like a high-budget, international film.

The cast is very talented, I personally enjoyed the performances of the villains in this story. Special attention is paid to details that you could miss if you don’t pay close attention. Its an experience that we recommend for anyone interested in seeing South African stories told in a new and exciting way. It’s incredible that our film industry is allowing for more experiments in this way. Trying new things and expanding our style of storytelling is what will ultimately propel us forward as African artists.

Check out Red Room this weekend and let us know what you think!

Girl Boss rating: 7/10

#BossingUp with Cici Twala

Cici Twala chats with Zani Tsabedze about her upcoming thriller movie, Red Room (starring Khanyi Mbau), inspiration for her second album, and how she healed from abuse. Find out what makes her a Girl Boss in this 15 minute #BossingUp convo.

Talking Black Panther Music with Yugen Blakrok

As Marvel’s Black Panther takes its well-deserved seat in the Academy Awards club with 6 nominations (including Best Original Song by Kendrick Lamar & SZA), we prepare for Captain Marvel and Avengers: End Game to complete the riveting story that Marvel fans have been following for years. Black Panther was undoubtedly one of the most exciting instalments in this series of films and it is arguably Marvel’s single biggest success as it continues to break records critically and in box office sales.

Stats aside, a lot of us are looking forward to seeing Wakandans again. It’s been a cultural phenomenon that has taken the world by storm. Africans worldwide including the diaspora, embraced and celebrated their African roots in the spirit of Black Panther’s marvellous execution of African beauty and tradition. Wakanda has become the metaphor for the African spirit that connects us all.

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Director, Ryan Coogler, has expressed the level of pressure he felt while making this film, as it was so apparent to everyone that nothing like it had ever been made before. The cast and crew were passionate about honouring the image of African culture and this passion translated over into its music as well. TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment) artist Kendrick Lamar was approached to produce the soundtrack for the film. In a Fader interview with David Redshaw, Coogler explains Kendrick Lamar’s evolving involvement in the film’s soundtrack.

“At first, he was just going to do a few songs for the film. Then he came in and watched quite a bit of the movie, and the next thing I know, they were booking a studio and they were going at it.”

Having explored South Africa’s rich culture and outstanding musical talent, TDE reached out to some of their favourite SA artists to collaborate with on the Black Panther soundtrack. The soundtrack includes local artists Babes Wodumo, Sjava, Saudi, Reason and Yugen Blakrok. As the standout performance on the soundtrack, we had to get in touch with the Johannesburg poet and MC for a brief chat about her involvement in the project and the creative process behind her craft.

Yugen Blakrok

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Featured on the fifth track of the Black Panther album, titled ‘Opps’, Yugen Blakrok raps alongside Vince Staples and Kendrick Lamar, proving that black women in hip-hop are a force to be reckoned with.  

Let’s start with the creative process behind your art. How did you come up with your stage-name and how does it relate to your style?

It’s a combination of sound and feeling. Yugen from the concept of awareness of the unseen and Blakrok for its weight and strength. The essence of my style is Yugen, my method is Blakrok.

Your style fits very well with the theme of Black Panther’s strong female characters. Did you know much about Black Panther before working on this feature or did you have to do some research?

I knew a bit about the film from trailers and comic books, I never imagined I’d be in any way involved with it. The idea of a strong female character is something that permeates all of my writing, regardless – this is something I identify with.

How were you approached to take part in this project?

I got an email from Sounwave, saying he wanted me on a project they were working on. I lost my mind. I was on tour in Europe, physically drained and didn’t think I’d have the time to do it but I gave it a shot anyway.

What challenges did you face working on this project that were new to you?

It was a different level of pressure. With my own work, I like to take my time and really get into it. With this project, even though Black Panther hadn’t been mentioned, it was chaotic. I wrote as fast as I could and went looking for a studio to record this mystery verse in. When I got to the studio in Berlin, LMNZ had a tea ceremony prepared. I recorded the verse, sent it and forgot about it.

Did you know who else would be featured on this track or did that come as a surprise?

It was a surprise. After I came back to Johannesburg, I received a call letting me know that the verse would be used for the movie. When that tracklist dropped, I was screaming with the rest of the world.

What do you think about Black Panther’s cast as an all-black ensemble?

It’s fantastic that the movie has a brilliant, all-black ensemble. It’s not often that you see black people in powerful roles TOGETHER. I hope it fuels, inspires and drives more people of colour to break these boxed roles we’re constantly forced into.

With Black Panther, do you think the representation of black people in media is evolving?

I think it’s changing and for the most part, improving.

Your increasing fanbase, especially African fans, are bound to be moved and inspired by how well you represented South Africa’s creative ability to an international audience. Were you aware of the impact you might make?

Well, I aim to do best at any given opportunity. The only pressure I feel is to outdo myself. The fact that I didn’t know I was working on the Black Panther soundtrack is a blessing within a blessing. I didn’t know how much the folks over at TDE (Top Dawg Entertainment) knew about South Africa or if this might be their first time hearing an emcee from here, I just wanted to play my damn part.

What advice would you give to other young entertainers and creatives?

Blinders on, run your race and finish. Nothing else matters.

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BlacKkKlansman – Movie Review

BlackKklansman is a very interesting flick which is based on a true story, (or as the film says “based upon some for real, for real, sh*t). It’s a vibrant period film, starring John David Washington (Denzel Washington‘s son!), with a lot of relevance in today’s political climate. It unapologetically explores issues of race and shares a politically conscious perspective on matters of oppression and corruption. Anyone that is uncomfortable with these topics and the overuse of racial slurs will have a hard time enjoying this movie because it does this very consistently and aggressively throughout the film.

It’s definitely a great movie to get into now during Black History Month and I highly recommend watching it before the 91st Academy Awards ceremony on the 24th of Feb, if you’re interested in seeing how they choose the winners this year.

4117_D015_07703_R Laura Harrier stars as Patrice and John David Washington as Ron Stallworth in Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman, a Focus Features release. Credit: David Lee / Focus Features

Everyone I know wanted to see this Spike Lee movie when the trailer first hit social media. The tale of a black police officer going undercover to infiltrate the ku klux klan creates opportunity for intense drama, thrilling action and lots of comedy, making it an absolute must-see. In all honestly, I have some mixed feelings about the execution of story. Although it delivers a great balance between the drama, action and comedy, it can get quite slow and there is quite a void where the main character, Ron Stallworth, is concerned.

Although very entertaining, the movie doesn’t explore its main character enough. He’s a highly driven young black cop but he also has a childlike innocence, which makes him very naïve. As the main character, and the gorgeous black brother of the story, Stallworth could’ve been a bit more interesting. He is outshone by every other character in the story. The moments that he really comes to life are in phone call scenes, where he impersonates other characters.

The actors that play kkk members are all on point. They find a good balance between humanizing and demonizing their characters and they definitely lead the comedy element of the movie. They bring most of the suspense as well, which is what’s needed to take the movie to the next level. It gets a bit slow at times and the main character tends to be quite one-dimensional. Some more character background for him may have helped us get to know him better and care about him more. But by the end of the movie it still feels as though we don’t know him very well. We get to know more and care more about his work partner (played by Adam Driver) than we do for him.

However, the cinematography is so stunning and creative, making it very easy to watch. The overall colour scheme and stylistic choices in the costume design and the set design are flawless. This movie is 2 hours of visual perfection.

The overall message to acknowledge your heritage and respect the heritage of others is also beautifully conveyed and full of heart. And we live for all the beautiful afros on the naturalistas!

Girl Boss rating: 8/10